Will deliver farm loan waivers, it was not a jumla: Kamal Nath
Madhya Pradesh chief minister-designate Kamal Nath plans to deliver on the Congress’ election promise to waive loans for farmers within 10 days of taking office.
“The promise was not just a jumla (false promise). Waiving loans is a top priority. I need to put the state finances in order. The state is bankrupt but I will find the money and will focus on getting rid of unwanted expenditure,’’ Nath, 72, told Hindustan Times on the phone from Bhopal, a day after his name was cleared for the chief minister’s post.
Asked why he was chosen over his Congress colleague, Jyotiraditya Scindia, he said, “I was not an applicant for the job, nor was I hungry for the job. My only hunger was to bring the Congress to power. My selection is a decision taken by Rahul Gandhi and the state legislators.”
Admitting to tense moments on December 11, counting day for the state assembly election held on November 28, Nath conceded that it was a tight battle.
“The Vindhya region let us down,’’ said Nath, who will be sworn in on December 17.
The Congress lost seats in the Vindhya region, while the BJP increased its tally from 15 seats in 2013 to 24. However,the Congress did well in the polls in traditional BJP bastions like Malwa-Nimar, where the saffron party lost half its seats.
Asked what he would like to tell outgoing chief minister, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who put up a spirited fight despite the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) having spent 15 years in power, Nath said, “He fought very well despite all the sections of society being against him. We (the Congress) did badly in one region but we are now comfortable with 121 legislators. I want to thank the BSP (Bahujan Samaj Party) and the SP (Samajwadi Party) for extending unconditional support.”
State BJP media in-charge Lokendra Parashar said, “Congress has lied to the people to win the elections, they know that it would be very difficult to implement its promises of loan waiver and unemployment benefit. We will compel the Congress to fulfill the promises made in the manifesto.”
Nath is also facing criticism from the Akali Dal over him being designated chief minister despite allegations that he was present at a gurudwara near Parliament during the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. Nath said, “I’ve been a minister since 1991. Why was there no charge then? I was general secretary in charge of Delhi and there was no issue then. There is no case against me.”
Nath plans to get to work as soon as he takes the oath of office. “I will take everyone along. There are no camps... You’ll keep saying Kamal Nath camp, Scindia camp. Everyone will be accommodated. I am in everyone’s camp.”
Nath will also need to deliver electoral dividends for the Congress in the upcoming general election, barely six months away. “2019 is the next challenge. I will have to make a plan to match the BJP’s organisational skills and their money power,’’ Nath said.
Of the 29 Lok Sabha seats in Madhya Pradesh, the Congress won only two in 2014: Nath’s and Scindia’s.
“There is no doubt that 2019 will be the main challenge, and Congress has to stitch alliances with other parties to beat the BJP,” said political commentator LS Hardeniya.